Disney’s Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi

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Disney’s Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi

Directed by:

Clyde Geronimi

Producers:

Walt Disney

Animated by:

Milt Kahl

Ward Kimball

Herbert Ryman

Frank Thomas

Bill Tytla

Music by:

Oliver Wallace 

Studio:

Walt Disney Productions

Release date:

15/01/1943

Running time:

10 minutes

Color process:

Technicolor

Synopsis


“Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi” (1943) is one of 32 animated short propaganda film that the United States government commissioned Disney to produce. Nearing bankruptcy after the financial failure of Fantasia (1940), Disney entered a contract to create these short films between 1941 and 1945 to save the company. The film is adapted from Gregor Ziemer’s book “Education for Death,” which focused on the indoctrination of Hitler Youth in Germany. The film follows a young German boy, Hans, from birth to adulthood, to demonstrate the insidiousness of Nazi propaganda in moulding the country’s Aryan youth into fully fledged Nazis. The characters speak in German with no subtitles, while an English narrator describes the unfolding events.

 

The film begins with Hans’s parents registering his birth. They must prove his Aryan heritage and choose a name that is not on the list of forbidden names (which are mostly Jewish, except for Franklin and Winston). They are then provided with a copy of Mein Kampf and a passport with room for twelve more children, a strong encouragement for helping the growth of the Fatherland. In Hans’s childhood, he is indoctrinated through fairy tales in which the enemy is democracy, the princess is Germany, and the hero is Adolf Hitler. Children idolize Hitler, and pledge allegiance to paintings of him, Goering, and Goebbels in school before they begin their lessons. The instructor uses the analogy of a wolf and a rabbit to teach the children that the strong deserve to inherit the earth, and the children are soon spouting far right rhetoric about Germany destroying weak nations. Hans is soon involved in book burning, wielding a torch with an angry mob seeking to eradicate all literature that is not in line with Nazi policy. The end of the film depicts Hans as a Nazi automaton, completely immersed in Nazi ideology as he marches in the army with millions others like him, who have likewise been indoctrinated to do whatever the Fatherland asks of him.

 

While the film shows a deeply troubling account of brainwashing citizens on the superiority of the Aryan race, it also elides the violence inflicted upon those that the Nazis sought to eradicate. The widespread, systemic persecution of Jewish people is completely absent, as is the violence inflicted upon racial and sexual minorities, and people with disabilities. This short film has a counterpart in Der Fuehrer’s Face (1942), which depicts Donald Duck dreaming that he is a Nazi, then waking up to find himself dressed in American flag pyjamas, relieved that he is, after all, an American. These propaganda films focus on the insidious methods of indoctrination in a way that neatly circumvents turning a critical eye towards America’s own history of the violent oppression of minorities. Given the rise of visible white supremacy and Nazism of the so-called “alt-right” under Donald Trump’s presidency, it is more prescient than ever to examine the implicit and explicit violence perpetrated against racial minorities in a North American context.


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